Thursday, January 20, 2011

[4.2] Paladin Tanking: A Level 85 Field Manual

Since my co-blogger wrote such a great primer for Feral Druid Tanking I figured it should be about time I revisit Paladin tanking. I’ve written a post before about talent specs, abilities, and glyphs, but a lot has changed (and soon a lot more will change). I think it’s time to take a clear look at everything and see what abilities and glyphs have become the staple versus what I thought would happen and what I see coming down the line. [Updated for patch 4.2 including gear list]

Protection paladins fit a very nice role in tanking. Not only do we have cooldowns for ourselves, but we have cooldowns for the entire raid and individual raid members. We have high DPS even while tanking and can contribute to the healing while doing our jobs. No other tanking class can claim to support their healer and raid as much as a protection paladin.

Protection paladins are an odd class. Back in BC when I created my paladin I was only considered an off-tank and everyone was supposed to slow down and DPS slower simply because I was a paladin and not a warrior tank. I worked hard and proved that I could hold my own. For example I helped tank Void Reaver and kept my threat in the top two as required. The Wrath expansion turned tanking on its head. Suddenly there were no crushing blows, huge magic damage, and every cooldown shared a two minute forbearance. Tanking itself became very easy in the threat department and I could argue that it made tanking a little too easy.

Enter Cataclysm. Cooldowns no longer share forbearance and Ardent Defender is now an on-use cooldown instead of a passive insta-save ability. Threat is a little harder to come by on mobs. Everything hits harder and the health pools of the tanks have been normalized. While all of this means that the base tanking stats between the classes are lessened, it becomes more important what each uniquely brings to the table. A properly used Protection Paladin helps the entire raid and supports other tanks without a flaw.

For ease of use I am going to follow the format setup by Titleist.

Patches and Updates
Patch 4.0.6 - 02/08/2011
Patch 4.1 - PTR Pre-release
Patch 4.1 - New heroic dungeon plate tanking drops 

Protection Paladins have a ton of abilities they can use for themselves of for others. So many of the abilities paladins get can be used in any spec. I’ll break them down into a few categories but first I'll talk about a quintessential aspect of paladin tanking, Holy Power.

Holy Power is like a combo point system. Every Crusader Strike or Hammer of the Righteous generates one Holy Power. Three Holy power is the max and different abilities can be used that consume Holy Power. As Protection Divine Plea also gives you instantly three Holy Power.

Threat Generation
Avenger’s Shield – Not only can it hit multiple targets and interrupt spell casting, but does a serious amount of threat and damage. This ability can also have its cooldown refreshed by Grand Crusader and should be used as often as possible.

Avenging Wrath – No longer shares forbearance with tanking cooldowns so this should be used on the pull for threat generation and whenever it is up to keep up damage and healing.

Consecration – Part of the rotation, but the damage and threat is not high enough to take away from any of the other threat gaining attacks. This is part of the multi-mob tanking rotation and can break CC so watch where you lay it.

Crusader Strike – This is the bread and butter attack for single target tanking. This generates Holy power and should be used every time it comes off of cooldown.
Hammer of the Righteous - This is the main attack for generating holy power while AoE tanking. Careful it hits everything around you on all sides so it breaks CC pretty easily. When glyphed it does pretty good damage.

Hammer of Wrath – If the ability is up it should be used. Does a large amount of damage and threat, but most likely threat is not an issue at the point this can be used.

Holy Wrath – This ability is a major part of your rotation. The damage is affected by the AoE cap so even on single targets this does a good amount of damage and threat. Glyphed this can stun many mob types as well so keep that in mind when using it.

Inquisition – Part of any snap agro multi-mob tanking rotations. Inquisition is best used right away because Holy Wrath, Consecration, and Hammer of the Righteous all have holy damage that is affected by the ability.

Judgment – Make sure you judge often, not only does it do a good amount of damage, but it triggers your Judgments of the Wise to regain your mana. Note: As of 4.2 even if you miss Judgements of the Wise will be triggered.

Seal of Truth – This is your tanking seal still. Always use this to tank as it helps keep threat on mobs you currently are not tanking if you have to switch targets. Keep in mind there is a small ramp up time while Censure stacks, but once you hit five stacks it adds a good amount of threat per hit.

Shield of the Righteous – The best damage and threat ability at your disposal. There is no need to use this ability without having three Holy Power. If you wait for Sacred Duty to proc the spell automatically crits which gives a huge bonus to threat and damage.

Tanking General
Devotion Aura – More armor is good so keep this up unless there is no one who can run any type of resistance and the fight has a lot of spell based damage then Resistance Aura might apply.

Hammer of Justice – For now this is a tanking interrupt until Rebuke becomes baseline in the next patch and can stun a mob if it isn’t immune. I find myself using this more for interrupting than stunning.

Hand of Reckoning – This is the basic taunt affecting a single target and dealing minimal damage.

Rebuke – 10 second interrupt that cannot miss, use it.

Righteous Defense – This is the multi-mob taunt that can be used on a target that is friendly or not. This can taunt up to three targets so it is not a good ability to use when taunting adds off of another tank unless you communicate to them to get ready to taunt what they need to tank back or you taunt first when swapping mobs in a fight.

Righteous Fury – Should be up all the time while tanking so make sure you check this before every boss fight.

Vengeance – Simply put, you take more damage, and you give out more damage. Top-end is calculated as AP = (BHP * .1) + S where BHP means base hit points and S is stamina.

Survival Cooldowns
Divine Plea – I put Divine Plea into survival cooldowns because it can be used as such. I sometimes end up using it just so I can heal myself or my healer with a Word of Glory.

Divine Protection – I use this on every pull. Only does 20% less damage, but can be used every minute. Should be used often in fights and pulls as it refreshes very quickly and can be Glyphed to 40% magic reduction if there is a large magic damage fight.

Divine Shield – Should only be used if you need to clear a debuff or you are not currently tanking and want to avoid damage or a stun. If you can’t be damaged mobs will avoid you and attack the next highest threat. Divine shield causes forbearance.

Guardian of the Ancient Kings – The long cooldown at three minutes, Guardian of the Ancient Kings gives you a 50% damage reduction which is really nice for large damage moments of giving your healer a break. Make sure your healers know when you use this ability.

Lay on Hands – Use this when you are taking a ton of damage or steady damage and you are stuck below 30% life. If you wait your healer could go OOM trying to compensate for your low health or you could die and wipe the raid. A 15 minute cooldown is worth it. This also causes Forbearance

Ardent Defender - Not quite as good as it used to be, Ardent defender acts like Divine protection, but with the added bonus of a hit that would normall kill you sets you back to 15% health.

Holy Shield - Holy Shield has been turned(nerfed) into a 30 second cooldown.  I would recommend putting this in a macro with crusader strike or some other often used ability so that whenever it comes off cooldown it instantly gets used again.  You block 20% more damage for 10 seconds.  It's not much, but you'll want it up every time you can get it unless there is a mechanic you are saving it for.

Raid Support
Blessing of Kings/Might – If there is a druid in the group use Blessing of Might, because Blessing of Kings and Mark of the Wild are now the same buff.

Cleanse – Cleansing takes a lot of mana, even more for healers, so if you can cleanse and save your healers some mana you should use it. Helps to have a click to cast add-on such as Healbot, Vuhdo, or decursive to be able to know what can be cleansed.

Hand of Protection – I use this all the time on my click to cast raid frames. Often either to clear a physical debuff on a raid member or to stop a healer for having threat against newly spawned mobs. Don’t use this on a Holy Paladin and keep in mind it stops a Melee class from attacking. This causes Forbearance on the target.

Holy Radiance – Not only does this heal people near you, but it generates a nice amount of threat as well. I often use this when near a group of raid members just to help keep them up. Keep in mind this takes 40% of base mana which can make a Protection Paladin start to have issues casting normal threat abilities because of low mana.

Word of Glory – Heals you or a raid member for a nice amount when you have three holy power. Also if you are glyphed the holy power can be refunded which makes it a nice to use ability. If your threat is good and your DPS is doing their job start using it every 20 seconds when it comes off of cool down to heal someone.

Tanking Rotation
Single Target Rotation - This is assuming you glyphed avenger’s shield to hit one target and have three holy power for every Shield of the Righteous the priority order of attacks is.

ShotR <> AS <> Judge <> HW

Multiple Target rotation - Assuming avenger’s shield is not glyphed.

HotR <> HW <> AS <> Consecration
Stats are an interesting thing. I was not one of the "stack pure stamina" Protection Paladins in WotLK, as I went for a balance of evasion and effective health. In Cata it all depends on your current weakness.

Stats for Threat 
Hit capped at 8%, Expertise soft capped at 26. Then stack stamina over strength because not only does more Stamina mean more life, it means a higher top-end for Vengeance. Note: This is only for threat, mitigation should be the first thing you look at.

Hit <> Expertise <> Stamina <> Strength

Stats for Avoidance/Mitigation
With there being no real issue with threat at the moment, avoidance and mitigation to the 102.4% block cap is now the new recommended function. Do not reforge your mastery into hit even if you are not hit capped, you only need 2% hit. The above is a fast and dirty representation of the stat weighting, but there is really much to it.

The block cap is calculated as;
Dodge % + Block % + Parry % + 5%(automatic miss chance by all mobs) = 102.4%
In the game you can run this macro.
/script DEFAULT_CHAT_FRAME:AddMessage("Need 102.4 combat table coverage. Currently at: "..string.format("%.2f", GetDodgeChance()+GetBlockChance()+GetParryChance()+5))
What “combat table coverage” means is that there is a base chance mobs can hit you. If you get your total avoidance/mitigation up to 102.4% “normal hit” drops off of the table meaning the only thing a physical attack can do is be dodged, parried, or blocked, in that order. So if your stats are 20% dodge, 20% parry, and 40% block your percentage would be: 20 + 20 + 40 + 5 = 85% This leaves a 17.4% chance that a mob will get a “normal hit” on you with no reduced damage other than what you get from your armor and talents. This also means that if you have 112.4% avoidance you are wasting stats because the block cap stops at 102.4%. Anything past it does not count for anything unless you get a debuff reducing your chance to dodge/parry/block.

Diminishing returns occurs when you hit a certain percentage of a stat which is called a “soft cap.” At the soft cap and above each point of said stats will be worth less and less. At some point the return on a single point will be worth much less than using that point in another stat. This creates balance and helps to combat stat "stacking".

For the application of protection paladins, dodge and parry now suffer from the same diminishing returns so they are equal in terms of avoidance. If you have a choice put points into the lowest of the two, remembering though that strength also adds attack power and parry so it might make a better choice

For protection paladins this might surprise you but the soft cap against mastery is 10% dodge or Parry. Most of us will have more than this, but above 10% you can reforge dodge and parry into mastery and GAIN mitigation. You even out damage by getting to the 102.4% making it easier on everyone.
Actual percentage where mastery is better than parry. 10.139%
Actual percentage where mastery is better than dodge. 10.5182%
So the couple of questions you need to ask yourself for avoidance and mitigation. What are your current stats? Strength gives parry at the rate of 27% of strength over base level 85 strength.

Mastery<>Dodge/Parry<> Strength

Follow this weighting until block cap is reached.

How They All Unfold
In the end you still want the same three things, just now in a different order, look for block capping THEN worry about your threat stats.

Block cap<>Hit cap<>Expertise cap
Mastery<>Dodge/Parry <> Hit <> Stamina <> Expertise capped

Never trade hit for expertise. The expertise hard cap is 56 so that gives you plenty to shoot for and replace strength for stamina as your gear puts you above the block cap.

Level 85 Protection Paladin Spec
You can’t go wrong with almost all the talents in the Protection tree, there are a few of them that can be situational - I’ll go over them. Some tanks will take Seals of the Pure, however I skipped this in favor of getting points into Rule of Law in the Retribution column. I’d rather be able to crit more with my current attacks and my word of glory than do a little more damage with my seals. I usually skip Improved Hammer of Justice because we now have Rebuke. Hallowed Ground increases damage and lowers mana cost significantly for consecration. This is more optional than you think, as consecration is bottom of the barrel for single target fights, and those points could be used elsewhere. With parry hasting out of the equation Reckoning now finds usefulness in cataclysm. With blocking being the trigger (and since we are trying to get to block cap anyways) this talent works great but if threat isn’t an issue you can skip this talent. I have so many uses for Divine Guardian; if you want to help your whole raid for AoE damage get this. Some skip it and go for just pure threat talents but I don’t know why.

Here is what I did in the retribution tree. Eye for an Eye – I'm still looking into this ability to do decent damage in raids, but for now I skip this because of the low chance it has to proc. Improved Judgment makes your judgments the same range as Avenger’s Shield, I like it simply for that. This is what I would switch out with Eye for an Eye for testing. With Guardians Favor you can make an argument about being able to Hand of Protection a raid member a minute sooner. It would be a good thing and I wouldn’t be able to argue plus in patch 4.0.6 they are reducing forbearance to one minute so this would align nicely. Rule of Law increases crit chance of two attacks and our word of glory. I take this mostly for the word of glory crit chance. I am not a big fan of movement speed increasing talents that don’t offer much in return, but add in the fact that some bosses have a required daze affect and movement is key in a lot of fights it just might be work picking up Pursuit of Justice

Note that I took 2 out of Hallowed Ground to make sure Rule of Law is 3/3 for the 15% extra crit chance for major abilities. To get two points into Pursuit of Justice you can take one point out of Divine Guardian(not recommended) or Reckoning(which is where I took it out of) and put it into Pursuit of Justice.

Keep in mind if you are not block capped go for Mastery across the board when enchanting.

Arcanum of the Earthen Ring

Greater Inscription of Unbreakable Quartz

Major Agility

Greater Stamina

Greater Expertise
Major Stamina

Mighty Strength
Greater Expertise
Greater Mastery

Charscale Leg Armor
Twilight Leg Armor

Earthen Vitality

Mighty Agility


Match sockets as best as you can if they give a good amount of stamina, mastery, or avoidance. Here are some good ones to use in each type of slot. Remember Mastery is the best stat you can get until you are hit capped. I’ve marked the ones I use with an asterisk.

I prefer Eternal right now, but only because I get a little more damage reduction while blocking at block cap.
Austere Shadowspirit Diamond
Eternal Shadowspirit Diamond

Jewelcrafter Gems
Solid Chimera's Eye
Rigid Chimera's Eye
Precise Chimera's Eye
Fractured Chimer’s Eye

Flashing Inferno Ruby
Precise Inferno Ruby

Rigid Ocean Sapphire
Solid Ocean Sapphire *

Fractured Amberjewel *
Subtle Amberjewel

Nimble Dream Emerald
Puissant Dream Emerald *
Regal Dream Emerald
Sensei’s Dream Emerald

Accurate Demonseye
Defender's Demonseye
Guardian’s Demonseye
Retaliating Demonseye

Fine Ember Topaz *
Keen Ember Topaz
Resolute Ember Topaz

Gear Lists
Making a gear list was actually quite daunting simply because of the balancing act needed to get to the block cap as quickly as possible. There is an equation when selecting gear with a threat stat on it such as hit or expertise with an avoidance stat like dodge or parry and no mastery. If the threat stat is 60% or higher of the Avoidance stat then reforge the threat stat, if it is under, reforge the avoidance stat into mastery. I’ve ordered them the way I see them falling in what you need until you are block capped which is actually decently hard to hit when you just start raiding.

An example would be [Sandguard Bracers] from Ramkahen Exalted.
Dodge Rating of 190 and Expertise Rating on 111.
Do the math 111/190 = 58.42%
This is under 60% so it is actually better for total mitigation to reforge Dodge rating instead of expertise rating.

[Spiritshield Mask] - Zul'Aman
[Grinning Fang Helm] – Dragonmaw Revered
[Headcover of Fog] – Heroic Vortex Pinnacle

[Fireheart Necklace] - Molten Front Dailies (available after !Through the Gates of Hell)
[Amulet of Protection] - Zul-Gurub
[Carrier Wave Pendant] - Heroic Blackrock Caverns 
Note: if you have lots of money you can look for a [Firebound Gorget] which is a Zone drop from the BiS neck item for tanks.


[Mantle of Patience] - Elemental Bonds Thrall Questline reward.
[Wrap of the Great Turtle] – Hyjal Exalted (the mastery stat makes it better than Ironstar's below)
[Ironstar's Impenetrable Cover] - Blackwing Decent BoE if you have the money.
[Gray Hair Cloak] - 1250 Justice Points
[Spiritguard Drape] - Zul-Gurub BoE

[Beauty’s Plate] – Blackrock Caverns

[Bracers of Regal Force] - If you have enough money to buy thes eare the BoE Valor Point wrists.
[Ricket's Gun Show] - Molten Front Dailies (Available after !Additional Armaments)
[Amani Armguards] - Zul'Aman BoE Drop

[Reinforced Sapphirium Handguards] - 1650 Justice Points
[Bone Plate Handguards] - Zul'Gurub
[Fingers of Light] – Halls of Origination

[Hardened Elementium Girdle] – Blacksmithing
[Coils of Hate] - Zul-Gurub
[Iron Will Girdle] – Shadowfang Keep

[Reinforced Sapphirium Legguards] - 2200 Justice Points
[Triton Legplates] – Throne of Tides

[Pyrelord Greaves] - Molten Front Dailies (available after !Through the Gates of Hell)
[Boots of Sullen Rock] – Dragonmaw Exalted
[Rock Furrow Boots] - 1650 Justice Points

[Lylagar Horn Ring] - Molten Front Dailies.  (Available after completing !Calling the Ancients)
[Nemesis Shell Band] - Molten Front Dailies.   (Available after completing !Calling the Ancients) Why both these? Seems odd.
[Ring of the Battle Anthem] - 1250 Justice Points (the dodge + mastery over Dodge + hit for Theck's make this a better ring.)
[Theck's Emerseal] - If you have money it's a BoE Firelands Zone drop.  Named for one of the best Theorycrafting Paladins I have ever read at Maintankadin.  He is where I can most of my information from. 
[Talonguard Band] - Zul'Aman
[Red Rock Band] – Ramkahen Revered (high mastery makes this ok to take)

[Moonwell Phial] - Molten Front Dailies. (After completing !Filling the Moonwell)
[Porcelain Crab] – Throne of Tides – Mindbender Ghur’sha (Huge Mastery proc)
[Throngus’s Finger] – Grim Batol – Forgemaster Throngus
[Scales of Life] - BoE from the Firelands Raid, I do not like the equip and use which is why it is down here.
[BedRock Talisman] - 1650 Justice Points

[Soul Blade] - Bastion of Twilight BoE, if you have the money it is a good DPS weapon to tank with.
[Elementium Fang] – Stonecore

[Blockade's Lost Shield] - World Drop
[Elementium Earthguard] – Blacksmith
[Extinct Turtle Shell] - Note:  Archaeology 150 Fossil Fragments.

[Relic of Khaz’goroth] – 700 Justice Points
[Stalagmite Dragon] – Stonecore – Slabhide
[Notched Jawbone] – Created by Inscriptionists

There are some macros that I use all the time so I’ll share them with you.

Divine Shield Macro
Used to remove a debuff very quickly off of you, just double tap the macro and you cast and cancel Divine Shield removing debuffs off of you while not losing agro for more than half a second.
#showtooltip Divine Shield
/cancelaura Divine Shield
/cast Divine Shield
Divine Plea Macro
Used to use Divine Plea to get three holy power, but also cancels it to make sure the 50% healing debuff does not stay on you for Word of Glory usage.
#showtooltip Divine Plea
/cancelaura Divine Plea
/cast Divine Plea
Holy Shield Macro
Now that Holy shield is on use I macro that into my Crusader Strike as well to keep it up as much as possible.  Holy shield can be used as a cooldown so you don't have to do this, but with a 30 second cooldown I just link it into a commonly used ability.
#showtooltip Crusader Strike
/Cast Crusader Strike
/Cast Holy Shield

Using Trinkets Macro
I put this with my Crusader Strike so it happens any time my trinkets come off of cooldown. I do this only with trinkets I forget to use, but have beneficial uses such as click to add more dodge or parry. I do not macro in use for more health trinkets or ones with protective bubbles.
#showtooltip Crusader Strike
/Cast Crusader Strike
/use Trinket name
Some people use mouseover macros for taunting, but I prefer to use a click to cast raid frame for that.

Add-ons \ Resources
Make sure all your add-ons are up to date and include your new abilities. offers its own client that can help keep track of what is available to be updated and what is not. There is a free version and a premium version depending on the features you are looking for.

Threat Plates - Helps me see what I have aggro on and I can see health bars and click on them if I enlarge them for easier handling of adds. Also you can add a target of creature name right above the healthbar so I know exactly who a creature is after if I click on it without looking for my player frames.

Omen - Knowing your threat level is one of the most important pieces of information a tank can have. With omen I know if I'm way out on the lead for threat or if some DPS is creeping up fast.

Power Auras Classic - Powa can be used to create graphic and audible alerts for just about anything you can dream of. My set up puts alerts right in the middle of my screen for many things, including holy power, and to when I have 30% life remaining.

Healbot (or VuhDo) - Any type of click to cast raid frame is great for a Protection Paladin. I went over the uses of this in an old how to tank post, but just for a recap; I have my Righteous Defense, Hand of Protection, Hand of Salvation, Cleanse, and Word of Glory as click to cast so I don't have to target anything to taunt off of my healer (or raid member) or throw a spell their way.

OmniCC w/ OmniCCPulse (needs an update still I think) - OmniCC puts a countdown counter on your abilities so you can see when abilities are coming off of cooldown. OmniCC Pulse makes the icon of the ability "pulse" out to double the size and back very quickly once just to let you know it is off cooldown and ready to be used again.

Dominos Bartender - Any type of bar mod will work in order to re-arrange and re-size your action bars close to each other. Having them easier reach is very nice. Keep in mind that these add-ons can create issues when the game mechanics change your action abilities (think Blood Queen in ICC or any type of vehicle fight). However most times if properly updated they are fully compatible.

Elitest Jerks
MMO Champion

Ending Comments
There is a lot to think about as a Protection Paladin in Cataclysm. Just start with knowing how to tank then slowly add in using Word of Glory on other people and Cleansing other people. Eventually start using click to cast to taunt as long as it is setup to show threat.

Tanking is a very rewarding and fun role in raids, but it is also one of the most stressful if you can’t figure out the mechanics. A lot will be blamed on you just as it is with healers, but it is all worth it when you start tanking heroics and start succeeding very well. You control the pace everything moves at and can singlehandedly force a mediocre group through a hard heroic.

I don’t know exactly what is in the future for Paladin tanking, Rebuke becomes baseline in 4.0.6 so we will now have a 10 second interrupt to go on which will be nice, but other than that the door is open for great things for our favorite class.

Gordrin is the Main Tank and Raid Leader of Malice Early Raid. He has 13 dogs, 87 cats, and 1 pet turtle. He can be reached at


cf357072-33a8-11e0-bec1-000bcdca4d7a said...

Where do you rank Blockade's Last Shield on your list? I'd see it as 1 or 2?

Gordrin said...

yeah didn't see that shield, I'll add it, that would be #1 as it provides more mastery AND parry instead of hit.

Bri said...

I don't know of one instance that any tank in cataclysm is choosing to stack hit and expertise over mitigation. This info is completely outdated and yet it says it is updated for 4.2?

Gordrin said...

Same here, but I noted that is threat stat weighting, not mitigation or avoidance or total stat weighting. I'll make it more clear in the post that is if you want to get more threat.

Gordrin said...

It was already in there so I bolded it.

"Note: This is only for threat, mitigation should be the first thing you look at."

Thom said...

Wow! Thanks for taking the time to spell this all out. It has helped me a increadibly, especially the macro you included.